The Dayton Flyers were considered a bubble team before the selection show started on Sunday. However, they did not have to wait long to hear their name called, as they were a part of the first region announced. Meeting them in their first round game in the South region is Ohio State. Which is an interesting matchup on a lot of levels.
First and foremost, the proximity between the two schools will create an interesting, rivalry-like feel to the game. To add to that feeling will be the presence of Jordan Sibert on the other side. Sibert is a redshirt junior who transferred from Ohio State following the 2011-12 season after his playing time vanished. And given what he provides on the court, he could have been a boon to Ohio State's chances this season if he stuck around.
Sibert is shooting 44% from three point range on his way to averaging 12.5 points per game for the Flyers. Ohio State's starting backcourt of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is shooting 31.7% from three. Given that he was recruited in the same class as Craft and Smith, Jr., it's a fair bet that he'll come into this game ready to let it fly against the Buckeyes' vaunted defense.
What else should you know about the Flyers? Let's take a look.
The Flyers are coached by Archie Miller. Miller is in his third year at Dayton, and is a former Ohio State assistant under Thad Matta. He's the brother of Arizona's coach Sean Miller, and like his brother was a standout point guard for a current ACC school (Sean at Pittsburgh, Archie at NC State). It would be fair to say that Miller is a basketball lifer, and at 36 he's definitely one of the top rising young coaches in the NCAA today.
Miller is known as a strong recruiter that has come from a strong background, coaching under his brother, Matta, and Herb Sendek before getting his own job at Dayton. On defense, the Flyers tend to play man-to-man mostly. Offensively, they run a motion offense and get most of their scoring from the perimeter.
Dayton's offense was strong this season by basically every metric. Their adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy was 113.4, which is in the ninth percentile of NCAA teams and first among Atlantic 10 teams. As mentioned earlier, the Flyers tend to get most of their scoring from the perimeter. They shoot 37.8% from behind the arc, which is in the top 14% of NCAA teams this season, and four of their five starters are adept from three point range. Sibert leads this portion of their attack, with a 61.3 TS% on 171 three-point attempts and only 119 two-point attempts. Four of their five starters overall shoot at least 39% from three.
Outside of Sibert, they feature a very well-rounded attack with no one averaging more than 12.5 points per game and all of their rotation players featuring a usage rate between 18.8 and 25.3%. The two others players to watch are Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre. Both are strong, tough forwards who have the ability to either play physically inside or step out and knock down threes. They each shot 39% from three while crashing the boards to the tune of 10 rebounds per 40 for Oliver and 8.3 for Pierre. Particularly, they're excellent offensive rebounders who attack the boards on that end better than anyone that Ohio State has to offer outside of Amir Williams, with offensive rebounding rates of 9.5% and 11.1% respectively.
More than anything, the Flyers are capable of knocking down shots in a way that most teams cannot. Their team's effective field goal percentage of 52.6% is in the top 13th percentile. But it's also worth mentioning that their offense tends to not turn the ball over via the steal, which is something Ohio State's defense is particularly adept at. Their 7.1% offensive steal rating was a top 20 mark in the NCAA, while Ohio State's rating was similarly 20th. Like in many games, whoever can win the turnover battle will most likely win this game.
With the coaching tree that Miller comes from, it's a surprise that Dayton's defense was not particularly strong this season. With an adjusted defensive rating of 104.9 in conference, the Flyers finished 9th in the Atlantic-10. Teams not only shot well against the Flyers in conference, at over 50% eFG%, but also got to the free throw line at an exceptionally high rate. On a possession basis, the Flyers gave up 1.02 points per possession, which was 8th in the Atlantic-10.
Getting into particulars with the players, point guard Khari Price is their best perimeter defender. He's extremely quick and active, with the ability to stay in front of most guards. Oliver is probably their best front court defender. He's slightly undersized at 6'7, but has long arms that allow him to contest shots from bigger players. My guess is that both he and the athletic Pierre will take turns checking LaQuinton Ross on the Buckeyes.
As far as the interior goes, Matt Kavanaugh is the best that Dayton offers, although Jalen Robinson and Devin Scott tend to get similar levels of minutes to him. Kavanaugh tends to the most physical of the three, and Robinson the best offensive threat. Both Kavanaugh and Scott struggle with fouling, as both average over six fouls per 40 minutes, so driving to the rim would seem to be the best way to attack the Flyers in order to either finish over only one big, or to go to the line for easy points.
Dayton profiles as a typically offensively-minded mid-major that isn't great on the defensive side of the ball. Given Ohio State's prowess on the defensive side of the ball, and overall solid offense against man schemes this year, the matchup seems to fall directly into their hands. I'll have more this week, but between the game being played in the afternoon and the general nerves of playing in the NCAA tournament, my assumption is that this game ends up being played in the high 50s to low 60s.